PLATTSBURGH — The first-ranked Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team will depart for one of its toughest road trips of the season today and Saturday.
The Cardinals (14-0-1, 7-0-0) will challenge No. 10 Utica (11-3-0, 6-2-0) at the Utica Memorial Auditorium for a pair of ECAC West contests.
Plattsburgh collected three out of a possible four points against the Pioneers last season, salvaging a come-from-behind 3-3 tie in the first of two meetings.
“We have no reason to speak about (the tie),” Cardinals coach Kevin Houle said. “We talk about how good of a hockey team they are. They’re a top-10 team, and they’re having a great year. They have a lot of team speed, and we know that.
“It’s certainly a big test. No one assumes we’ll automatically win. Everyone understands they’re a good hockey team.”
Plattsburgh is coming off a two-game sweep of Cortland at Stafford Ice Arena. After an 8-0 victory, the Cardinals put up double-digit goals to record a 10-1 win Saturday.
Plattsburgh maintains a one-point lead in the race for the ECAC West regular-season championship with 14 points, while Oswego (13), Elmira College (12) and Utica (12) are all in the hunt.
“Anytime you play a league game, the points are crucial,” Houle said. “They’re a top-three team in our league. Elmira has already beaten them twice, so in that regard, we have to try and stay even with them.
“Utica is certainly capable of beating anybody. There are four points at stake, and we need to do our best to get all of them. We’re really hitting the meat of our schedule, so every point is big.”
Shannon Stewart (13-7-20) and Allison Era (3-17-20) are the Cardinals’ top point-getters, while Bridget Balisy (7-12-19), Jordan Caldwell (7-10-17) and Jenny Kistner (9-5-14) have also made significant contributions on the offensive end.
Sydney Aveson has seen time in net during 76.8 percent of Plattsburgh’s games. A West Covina, Calif., native, Aveson leads the nation in goals-against average (0.27), save percentage (.985) and shutouts (eight).
Houle’s special-teams units have been efficient. The power play has converted 14-of-56 opportunities, while the penalty kill is 57-for-58.
The Cardinals have outscored their opponents by a 78-4 margin, including a 20-1 mark on the road.
The Pioneers are 11-1 in their last 12 games and are 6-0 in conference play during that span.
Megan Myers (13-10-23), Morgan Reed (6-11-17) and Gabrielle Schnepp (7-9-16) pace Utica in points, while Jennifer Hamel is the team’s primary goaltender.
Hamel sports a 9-3 record to go along with a 2.00 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
“When you look at their schedule, they’ve played a lot of good teams,” Houle said. “They have some quality wins. no doubt. We don’t need to look at their record in their last 12 games to know that. They’re coming in with confidence. At home, they’re going to be fired up. We need to match that intensity.”
After Saturday, Plattsburgh will play host to Potsdam Feb. 1 at Stafford before traveling to No. 3 Elmira in two highly-anticipated games Feb. 7 and 8.
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